Max Verstappen locked in Red Bull contract until 2019

SPIELBERG, Austria -- Christian Horner has dismissed speculation of Max Verstappen leaving Red Bull for Ferrari as "propaganda", saying the teenager has a watertight contract until the end of 2019.

Verstappen's future has been under scrutiny this season, with his growing frustration at his run of bad luck and retirements fuelling suggestions he will look for a way out of Red Bull this year. Several reports last week suggested Verstappen has signed to drive for Ferrari in 2019.

"Total rubbish, propaganda," Horner said after being asked about the reports in Austria.

When asked whether Verstappen is currently a free agent for the 2019 campaign, he replied: "No he has a contract with the team for '19. After '19 he is on the open market."

Verstappen's bad luck continued in Austria, where he was caught up in a first-corner incident and punted out of the race. Meanwhile teammate Daniel Ricciardo went on to score his fifth consecutive podium, opening up a 62-point lead over Verstappen in the process.

Despite Verstappen's run of bad luck Horner believes the teenager has taken solace from the clear signs of improvement shown by Red Bull in recent races.

"Despite his age he has actually got quite a bit of experience, and he has had similar issues in his karting career and so on. What he has actauly taken a lot of heart from is the car is getting stronger and stronger and today was arguably our most competitive race this season, certainly since Monaco. Particularly on this layout type of circuit.

"So you can see all race, sector two, the twisty bit, we were the fastest car compared to Mercedes and Ferrari there. He can see that progress coming. When it does come his way, as so often the case in sport, he could end up winning three races on the trot by not necessarily changing anything that he is doing. It will just turn for him."